History of Hampshire County, West Virginia

Hampshire county, the oldest in West Virginia, was formed in 1754. It then included nearly all the valley of the South branch, and its limits westward were not defined. The present county of Mineral and a portion of Morgan were then in Hampshire. In 1785 Hardy county, including- the present territory of Grant and part of Pendleton, was taken from Hampshire. In 1820 Morgan county was created, taking part of its territory; and in 1866 Mineral was formed from Hampshire. Thus the old county was reduced to its present limits. In 1784 its area was two thousand eight hundred square miles, with about fourteen thousand population. Its area is now six hundred and thirty square miles with about thirteen thousand population. In writing the present history no labor or expense has been spared. The aim has constantly been to present a faithful narrative of events, beginning with the earliest explorations and settlements and leading down to the present time. In order to present occurrences in their proper sequence and relation, the work has been divided into three parts. The first considers the county of Hampshire as one in a group of counties forming the state. Many features of history cannot be adequately considered if restricted to a single county because they concern the whole state. Part I. of this book, therefore, contains a synopsis of the history of West Virginia, thereby laying a broad foundation on which to construct the purely local history of the county. Part II. contains the county history. Part III. deals with family history. Each of these parts is complete and could stand alone; but the three are so related that they form one work, the state history beings the foundation, the county history the superstructure, and the family history the finishing. Every nook and corner of Hampshire has been ransacked to collect the scattered and disconnected, but mutually related, fragments from which to compile this book. The magnitude of this work may be partially appreciated when it is stated that more than thirteen hundred families were visited at their homes, and a record made of the births, marriages and deaths in each family, not only for the present generation but often extending back more than one hundred years. The result of this has been carefully condensed and is presented in part III. The aggregate distance traveled in collecting this material was no less than three thousand miles; and if one man had collected the material and written this History of Hampshire it would have occupied his whole time for seven hundred days.

While the preparation of the family history was the most laborious and expensive part of the undertaking, much work was required for the other parts. The book has been written for the homes, and the aim has been to make it an educational work, not so much for the older people who probably are already acquainted with much that is in it, but for the young whose education has only begun. To this end, special attention has been given to the geography, botany, geology and mineralogy of the county, and the kindred topics relating to climate and products. These have been written from original investigation and observation; for no writer had ever before entered that field in Hampshire county, except in the most general and superficial manner. It is confidently believed that the school children of Hampshire will find the way opened for a more intelligent and practical understanding of their county's geography and natural features, particularly of what the mountains contain, how soils are made, and the effects of climate, and many kindred topics.

The destruction of many of the county records during the war has been a serious obstacle In the way of fully investigating many events In the county's early history. However, no source of Information that could possibly throw light upon the subject has been neglected. The compilation of the history of the war in Hampshire presented most discouraging difficulties. There were few documents and almost no official or unofficial records accessible. Days of Investigation often were required to fix a date; and sometimes the date could be fixed only approximately. The narratives of events were collected from scores of sources, and were often so conflicting that to bring order out of chaos seemed impossible. But, after months of labor, the chapter on the war Is presented to the people with the assurance that they will find it an important and painstaking record of events as they occurred . in Hampshire. It Is believed that. In the main features it is absolutely correct, and in the minor details it contains very few errors.

It has not been the purpose to go much beyond the present borders of the county in dealing with its history, yet, so intimately are historical occurrences interrelated, that a proper handling of the subject often led the investigator beyond the confines of Hampshire. The book is a tolerably full history of the lower portion of the South branch, valley. Trivial matters have been omitted in order to devote more space to what is of greater importance. Valuable assistance has been given by the citizens of Hampshire. They have cooperated nobly in the work, and if they find this history a book of value, they helped to make it so.


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George Washington spent the summers of three years surveying the estate of Lord Fairfax, partly in West Virginia. He began the work in 1748, when he was sixteen, and persecuted it with ability and industry. There were other surveyors employed in the work as well as he. By means of this occupation he became acquainted Math the fertility and resources of the new country, and he afterwards became a large land holder in West Virginia, one of his holdings lying as far west as the Kanawha. His knowledge of the country no doubt had something to do with the organization of the Ohio company in 1749 which was granted 500,000 acres between the Monongahela and the Kanawha. Lawrence Washington, a half brother of George Washington, was a member of the Ohio company. The granting; of land in this western country no doubt had its weight in hastening the French and Indian war of 1755, by which England acquired possession of the Ohio valley. The war would have come sooner or later, and England would have secured the Ohio valley in the end, and it would have passed ultimately to the United States; but the events were hastened by Lord Fairfax's sending the youthful Washington to survey his lands near the Potomac. While engaged in this work. Washington frequently met small parties of friendly Indians. The presence of these natives was not a rare thing in the South Branch country. Trees are still pointed out as the corners or lines of surveys made by Washington.